This rapid literature review collates findings from recently published papers on digital development and gender, highlighting some of the most commonly discussed discussions related to economic, social and political development. As the scope of this query is very large, this review provides an illustration of some of the commonly identified issues in the literature. The digital inclusion agenda seeks to close the gaps in access to, and adoption of, fast evolving information and communication technology (ICT) services, particularly mobile phones and the internet. It is an important aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as both an end and a means to the cross-cutting policy aim of ‘leaving no one behind’. The potential gains from digital technologies are high, however, they often remain unrealised, especially for women and girls (World Bank, 2016). There is a large and growing amount of recently published policy-relevant literature on this broad ranging subject particularly in policy/practitioner papers and in academia.
The key messages emerging in the literature include:
- While there is a widespread acknowledgement that the world is undergoing a digital revolution which is changing the way people, businesses, and countries operate and develop, there is little consensus on concepts or on a framework to understand these trends. Some trends represent a qualitative change – e.g. the new digital economy, while many represent a quantitative change – e.g. in the pace of development.
- A new ‘digital economy’ (or information economy) has emerged as digital technologies have increased the amount of information available, with the increasing ease of access and reducing costs of access.
- The potential gains from digital technologies are high, yet the impact is mixed, and uneven and therefore often unrealised.
- The extent and speed of digital development are unequal and is contributing to unequal development trajectories. This mixed picture suggests that digital development is not only disrupting development pathways but is also a continuation of traditional development challenges and divides. The nature of these gender divides is rooted in structural gender inequalities and more research is needed to understand it in its specific contexts.
- Digitalisation is transforming economic activities with new industries, technologies, ways of working, and networks.
- Keeping up with fast-paced digital developments is a huge and multifaceted challenge with policy levers across a wide spectrum of areas.
- Digital technologies promote development by three mechanisms: inclusion, efficiency and innovation (World Bank, 2016, p.2, 9-10).
- This rapid review of the literature identified five key areas of digital development within the broad remit of economic, social and political development that pose particular opportunities and risks for digital inclusion of women and girls: jobs and employment; service delivery; changing social norms and values; e-governance; and digital skills development and education.